Paracelsus, the Plague, and De Pestilitate

In: Early Science and Medicine
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  • 1 Aquinas College

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Abstract

While De Pestilitate is generally regarded as pseudepigraphic by modern scholarship, the treatise occupied a prominent place in Johann Huser’s definitive edition of Paracelsus’ Bücher und Schrifften (1589-1591). The text offers a compelling and generally reliable guide to Paracelsian plague theory with clear resemblances to the authentic Zwey Bücher von der Pestilentz und ihren zufällen and De Peste Libri tres. The text emphasizes the astrological transmission of the disease, describes a large role for divine retribution and demonological agency, and promotes the utility of folkloric cures. While the plague theory reflects Paracelsus’ own thought and is well synthesized with his tria prima chemical philosophy, there are sufficient dissonances between the text and the corpus of his accepted writings to maintain its pseudepigraphic status, even if it displays some indications of a reworking of genuine Paracelsica.